‘This Bill is Bull$%#@!’ Legislator Says of Controversial Law Changes

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DES MOINES, Iowa--Statehouse Democrats worked again Wednesday to drag out debate on a controversial bill that would dramatically change the rights of an estimated 184,000 public workers to negotiate issues like health care, equipment, overtime and holidays. And things got testy at times.

"The amendment is good," Representative Dave Jacoby, a Coralville Democrat said of a Democratic proposal to change the collective bargaining bill. Then he added, "But the bill is bull$#@%!"

Debate started in both the house and senate Tuesday night. Democrats have been loading that debate with numerous amendments, even though they know little to none of those amendments will actually change the final version of the bill. The plan pushed by Republicans, who hold the majorities in both chambers, rewrites the state's collective bargaining laws that have been in place since 1974.

Democrats argue the changes will force financial hardship on public workers, make their workplace less safe and discourage employees from working in government jobs. Republicans contend the bill will save taxpayers money by forcing public workers to pay more toward their health care, make it easier to fire poorly performing workers and reward well-performing employees.

Wednesday's early debate showed the tension of the debate. Representative Timi Brown-Powers, a Waterloo Democrat, called out Representative Dawn Pettingill, a Mount Auburn Republican, for "laughing" during her remarks about the hardships collective bargaining changes will bring to workers. Pettingill did not immediately respond to Brown-Powers' complaint. But she later, during her own remarks, looked around at lawmakers and asked, "Is everyone listening?"